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Drug addict jailed for at least 19 years after murdering ‘kind’ father-of-three

A drug addict who “shamelessly exploited” the generosity of a father-of-three has been jailed for a minimum of 19 years for his murder.

Ian Connell, 39, strangled Donald ‘Prentice’ Patience, 45, in a “fit of rage” after his victim refused to give him more money to feed his heroin and crack cocaine habit.

The decomposing body of Mr Patience, known to family and friends as Prent, was discovered inside a duvet cover at the bottom of his stairs after police were called to reports of a burglary at his home in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.

Drug addict Ian Connell
Drug addict Ian Connell who has been jailed for a minimum of 19 years at Manchester Crown Court (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

A postman dialled 999 on the morning of August 22 last year when he saw a man climb through the rear kitchen window of the end terrace property in Ainsworth Road.

When police arrived soon afterwards, Connell was nearby with Mr Patience’s white labradoodle, Layla, on a lead.

Homeless Connell had locked himself out but lied to officers that his “dear friend” was in Scotland and had given him permission to break into his property so he could walk the dog, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Jurors were told by a pathologist that Mr Patience was probably strangled on August 20 and sufficient force was used to fracture both sides of his larynx.

Michael Hayton KC, prosecuting, said Connell preyed upon the good nature of Mr Patience, who had access to cash from family property.

He said the defendant used Mr Patience as an “open wallet” in receiving thousands of pounds since they first met.

Police officers outside Donald Patience's property on Ainsworth Road in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester
Police officers outside Donald Patience’s property on Ainsworth Road in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA)

Sentencing Connell on Wednesday to a life term, Mrs Justice Ellenbogen told him: “You had a habit which you had no legitimate means of funding. Having first met Donald Patience in 2020 or 2021, you found in him a source of interest-free, regular funding and you exploited his financial means, generosity and loneliness to the full.

“As you demonstrated during the course of your trial you are a man capable of a sudden flash of temper.

“I am satisfied that having come to rely upon Mr Patience’s funding of your addiction, you had become increasingly angry and frustrated at his unwillingness to lend you money as and when you required it.

“You strangled Mr Patience in a fit of rage.

“Throughout your interactions with Mr Patience during the last few days of his life you showed a callous disregard for his own vulnerability, welfare and needs.

“It is clear he had become somewhat reclusive and had been battling his own demons. He was an educated and talented man whose desire for company and friendship you shamelessly took advantage of, prioritising your own insatiable need for your next fix.

“The only mitigation is your lack of pre-meditation. You have shown no remorse.”

The court heard that Connell, from Bolton, continues to protest his innocence.

Born in the Highland town of Alness, Mr Patience graduated from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University as an actuary in 2001.

He found work carrying out statistical analysis for pensions but became unwell from the “high pressure job” and spent a short time in a Priory clinic.

Flowers outside the home of Donald Patience in Ainsworth Road in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester
Flowers outside the home of Donald Patience in Ainsworth Road in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA_

Mr Patience moved to Greater Manchester in around 2005 and set up a Domino’s pizza restaurant franchise in Bury with one of his brothers, jurors were told.

In a statement read to the court during the trial, his ex-wife Kirsty Banks said she met him while working there and they married in 2012 and had three children.

Ms Banks said Mr Patience had a car accident in 2015 which left him temporarily unable to work and he “started to drink more” and eventually became “addicted to painkillers”.

Mr Patience later left the family home and moved into the couple’s previous address in Ainsworth Road, which they had been renting out.

Ms Banks said her ex-husband began “hanging around” with a “dodgy” former tenant who introduced Connell to him.

On behalf of the family, including his mother Elizabeth and brothers Andrew, Hugh and Robert, Mr Patience’s sister-in-law Julie Patience told the court: “He was a greatly loved father, son and brother who was tragically taken away too soon.

“Ian Connell used our brother to feed his drug habit with no regard to Prent’s feelings.

“His three children are heartbroken and he will never see them grow up.”

In her victim personal statement she added Mr Patience was “one of the most kindest and generous people I know” and that “this kindness has ended in tragedy from a senseless act”.